Damage control: Coordinated response key to reducing disaster risk, argues Harvard team

Staff of KKF, Red Crescent and Aman Foundation receives training.


Our Correspondent January 29, 2014
“We want to train the rescue teams about the humanitarian element during any disaster,” briefed Dr Modi. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: There is a need to train rescue teams and establish a central command system to enable the government and humanitarian agencies to coordinate and minimise destruction during any disaster, said fellows from the Institute for International Emergency Medicine, Harvard School of Public Health, on Tuesday.

“There is a lack of coordination among different stakeholders, including the government and rescue agencies,” said the fellows - Dr Shawn D’Andrea, Dr Usha Periyamayagam and Dr Payal Modi.

“The top leadership and heads of the organisations have to understand that, without coordination, rehabilitation cannot be carried out effectively,” they said, while talking to The Express Tribune.

 photo GhulamRaza_zps3ae56b9c.jpg

The Harvard team members were holding training workshops on ‘Preparing emergency department for disaster’ and ‘Training paramedics in pre-hospital mass casualty management.’ The participants from the Khidmat-e-Khalq Foundation (KKF), Pakistan Red Crescent Society and Aman Foundation were trained in modern techniques for disaster-risk management.

“We want to train the rescue teams about the humanitarian element during any disaster,” briefed Dr Modi. “In this manner, the skilled persons will be able to tackle the situations confidently,” she added.

“There is a need for different ambulance services to coordinate amongst themselves,” said Dr Periyanayangam. The plan is to meet the heads of different organisations and government officials, she added.

“The heads of Chhipa and Edhi are interested in having their rescue staff trained. We’ll meet them soon. They are the major stakeholders in the city. Edhi is even working in other parts of the country,” informed Dr Andrea.

The team said that they had held several meetings with officials of Sindh health department, Provincial Disaster Management Authority and others regarding the training of their respective staff members.

“The top leadership should show interest. These trainings would be more beneficial for field officers,” they added.

“We lack proper management. We need to train our staff,” commented Dr Ali Warsi of Red Crescent. He said that though he was already trained but the knowledge he received from the Harvard team was good for him and his staff. “It was designed in accordance with the prevailing situation,” he maintained.

KKF ambulance driver Syed Nazim Hussain seemed satisfied and excited. “It was my first such training,” he said. Hussain complained that without the resources, it is not possible for rescue workers to save lives effectively. “There is also a lack of awareness among people who abruptly show up at a blast location,” he added.

“One well-equipped ambulance will not be enough,” commented Ghulam Raza, a staff member of Aman Foundation. “All rescue workers should be trained and work in complete harmony. The accident site is always a mess. Every rescue worker wants to recover bodies and injured persons without thinking they could harm those who could be saved,” he said.

Concluding the session, Dr Periyanayagam stressed that the participants needed to share knowledge with their colleagues. “You should put disaster training into practice on the field,” she encouraged.

The team informed that not only rescue teams but law enforcement agencies needed to be trained. “I was part of the Boston blast rescue team. There was central command coordination during the rescue. It really made everything easy,” informed Dr Andrea.

The Harvard teams said that it is the need of the hour for all teams involved in disaster management to work together. “Whatever it is - floods, earthquakes, road accidents or blasts - you can’t manage things easily without coordination,” they said.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2014.

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